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The Frame

Line Construction
If the word is the cornerstone of poetry, the line is its foundation. The line is the fundamental element of verse, the difference between verse and prose. Its purpose is to increase the density of the thought or image and give focus to the words.

The line is written in many styles, patterns, and meters, some of the more popular lines are:

  • Adonic Line
  • Alexandrine line (French) is an iambic hexameter (6 metric feet) line made up of hemistichs (half lines) separated by caesura. One source indicates to be a true Alexandrine line, the hemistichs must be equal and complete and the caesura must be absolute (period, question mark, semicolon, colon). This suits French but in English, it can make the line abrupt, overly formal. The caesura gives a dramatic, sometimes formal effect to the line. The pattern slows speech and gives the line a sense of importance. Although it is the first line of a Poulter's Measure, it is most often used as an end line of a stanza, as in the Spenserian Stanza. When written as a couplet Alexandrines are usually rhymed. 

    Although the Alexandrine was popular in 16th century, English poetry, it is the standard line in old French Poetry and is referred to as French Heroic verse or meter. It is thought to have originated in a French verse written in 1180, Alexandrine romances extolling the heroics of Alexander the Great. Before that most French epics and romance were written in either octasyllabic or decasyllabic lines.

    That can thy light resume. When I have plucked the rose. --- William Shakespeare, Othello Vii

    Testament of Beauty by Robert Seymour Bridges (L1-L14)
    A poem written predominantly in Alexandrine lines.

    'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
    squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
    his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
    and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
    face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
    naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
    'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
    at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
    to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
    where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
    Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
    'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
    in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
    walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought.

    The line has been referred to as a "loose" Alexandrine when the hemistichs are not quite equal or complete and are separated by a lessor pause such as a comma. This can also be referred to as a Fourteener. The rhythm is less abrupt and more pleasant to the ear.

    Today I grasp what may, not then or when but now. ----Judi Van Gorder

  • Dipodic verse is verse written in lines with two heavy stresses and any number of unstressed and/or lightly stressed syllables. This is more apparent when the verse is read aloud. There can be variations of unstressed and lightly stressed syllables but in reading aloud, the dipodic line has two heavily stressed syllables.

    Conversation by Elizabeth Bishop

    The tumult in the heart
    keeps asking questions
    And then it stops and undertakes to answer
    in the same tone of voice.
    No one could tell the difference.

    Uninnocent, these conversations start,
    and then engage the senses,
    only half-meaning to.
    And then there is no choice,
    and then there is no sense;
    until a name
    and all its connotation are the same.

  • Fourteener line is written in 2 parts separated by a caesura. It is patterned in iambic heptameter (7) and grew to popularity in 16th century English poetry. Most often the caesura occurs sometime after the 3rd foot. The line always appears as the last line of a Poulter's Measure. The Fourteener is sometimes referred to as Septenary verse.

    "The words he spoke were mine, who is this man who speaks my heart?" -Judi Van Gorder

  • The Heroic line or Heroic Verse (Greek) is metrically different depending on whether it is English, French, Greek or Latin. It is named for its use in Epic poetry, in which the "deeds of brave men are narrated" Isidore of Seville, NPEOPP, pg 524. It is not enough to simply point at the meter as the defining feature of the heroic line, it generally is also linked by rhyme to another line. The long lines are often enjambed which suits the narrative rhythm of Epic verse. However, the heroic line is not just suited to the Epic, the line serves the narrative Blank Verse and the lyrical Sonnet equally well.

    The English Heroic Line has been called the staple of English poetry. It is written in iambic pentameter and is linked to another line by rhyme. It was the dominant poetic line of the 16th through 18th centuries. Without the rhyme, it can also be called blank verse. The heroic line has become synonymous with a line of iambic pentameter.

    "Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art,"- John KeatsBright Star L1

      In heaven, waits the comfort that I seek. --- Judi Van Gorder

    The French Heroic Line is the Alexandrine line.

    The Greek and Latin Heroic verse is dactylic hexameter.

  • Leonine Verse (Middle English) is a line written with 2 syllable rhyme midway and at the end of the line. It was originally employed to rhyme at a midway caesura and line end, found in Latin verse of the European Middle Ages. It appears to have been named for 12th-century monk Leonius.

    "They took some honey and plenty of money."
                                    -- Edward Lear, Owl and the Pussycat

  • Monostich(Greek) is a single line of verse, a poem in a single line. It has no structural limitation other than the line itself.

    Mountain moon hidden behind valley clouds reveals earthbound heaven. --- jvg

    And see Lucy Lu's aka Lake,  One Line Haiku... or Monostich poems...
  • Mote or Motto (Italian) is one sentence, most often written in a single line, especially when the sentence is short. It expresses a complete statement or thought, most often to be expanded upon in the body of the poem. The single line may be a quote, spoken or written by another. When another's words are used in this fashion, credit must be given to the writer.

    Monday by Judi Van Gorder
    "Seize the day!"
                 --- Horace 20 BC

    Break the silence of chatter
    by listening.
    The words you speak
    should be your finest poem.

    Touch the ones you love
    as if yesterday was a dream
    and tomorrow is just a word.
    The moment is not then
    or when; it is now.

  • Sapphic Line
  • Septenary, (Middle English), is a line name for an iambic heptameter line, (7 iambic metric feet contained therein). It is also called a Fourteener when a caesura is employed after the 3rd metric foot. Originally in Old English, it referred to any line of 7 metric feet regardless of metric pattern but evolved to the more specific iambic pattern. The two constants from Old English to today's septenary line is masculine or strong stressed end words and the measure of 7.  It is the forerunner of metered poetry breaking the 7 meter line into 2 lines, the first of 4 metric feet followed by a line of 3 metric feet.

    I seek to share a truth in simple space with black on white. ~~jvg

  • Serpentine verse (French), is verse that begins and ends with the same word. Named for the image of a snake with its tail in its mouth. It is symbolic of eternity, without beginning or end.

    "Row us out to Desenzano, to your Sirmione row"-Alfred Lord Tennyson, Frater Ave Atque Vale L1

  • Stich (Greek row or line), is a single line of verse written adjacent to other lines. When it stands alone it is a monostich.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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